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Della Valle Bullish on Near Term

Tod’s chief Diego Della Valle insists his 6 percent holding in Saks is a family investment and said he doesn't plan to revive Schiaparelli before 2010.

MONTE CARLO — Diego Della Valle, chairman and chief executive officer of Tod’s SpA, insists his 6 percent holding in Saks Inc. is a family investment, and declined to comment whether he plans to increase his stake in the department store group.

This story first appeared in the June 17, 2009 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

In an interview on the sidelines of the FT Business of Luxury conference here, Della Valle also said he doesn’t plan to revive Schiaparelli, the long-dormant Parisian fashion house, before 2011, but remains optimistic about a recovery for luxury markets in the near term.

Della Valle created a stir in the industry last month when it emerged he had increased his holding in Saks to 5.9 percent between Feb. 20 and May 7, for a total consideration of $30.3 million.

“I believe it’s a great U.S. brand, and I have personally known their management for many years,” he said. Although Tod’s operates stand-alone stores in the U.S., its signature loafers and handbags are also on sale at Saks.

Della Valle, who in addition to running Tod’s sits on the board of French luxury group LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton and owns Italy’s Fiorentina soccer club, is the latest entrepreneur to take an interest in Saks, which has been the subject of takeover speculation. Mexican telecoms and retailer magnate Carlos Slim Helú is Saks’ largest shareholder, with an 18.6 percent holding. Della Valle said he plans to meet him “as soon as practical.”

Like other retailers in the U.S., Saks has been hard hit by the downturn in luxury spending in the country. However, Della Valle said he remains optimistic U.S. consumers will soon reacquire a taste for shopping.

“After the summer break, there are likely to be signals that people will be inclined to get out and buy something,” he said, although he cautioned these moves won’t immediately translate into a significant sales improvement for the luxury goods industry.

“Around Christmas, we will start to see — if not in the numbers, at least in the prevailing mood — a consumer that is overcoming the crisis,” Della Valle added, noting Tod’s foresees the conditions to increase its profitability once markets begin to show an improvement. He declined to quantify the extent of the increase.

In addition to Tod’s, Della Valle’s company sells apparel, accessories and luxury shoes under the Hogan, Fay and Roger Vivier brands. His family also acquired the rights in 2007 to couture house Schiaparelli, which has been closed since 1954.

As a Schiaparelli revival isn’t imminent, no designer has yet been chosen for the task. “This is not the right time, there’s too much to do at Tod’s,” he said, adding that at the moment, the company is focusing on luxury shoe brand Roger Vivier. “I hope that markets will have stabilized when we are ready for Schiaparelli.”